Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Bishyyyk Trooper Project

At this year’s “Bish Bash” fundraiser, Matt “Grumpy” Lindon presented Michael and Cindy Bish (Sam’s parents) with an extra special gift: their own personalized Kashyyyk clonetrooper helmet – decorated in the colors and style of The Sam Bish Foundation.

“Now, I can't tell you what made me do this,” admits Grumpy. “I just felt I should and that it was a good thing to do. I just had to make it.”

As the CO of Great Lakes Base’s Umbara Squad – Grumpy is used to paying close attention to detail when it comes to clontrooper armor. Now, turn that project into a labor of love for the Bish family and this armor is more “work of art” then just another costume project.  Grumpy painted each of the three chest plates and the Kashyyyk clonetrooper helmet (by hand) and personalized each of them with both screen-accurate Star Wars detail as well as various symbols of The Sam Bish Foundation – including the monarch butterfly and yellow ribbon – as well as messages like “In Memory of Sam Bish” (but in Aurebesh – of course)

“I was really a bit overwhelmed by such a generous and beautiful gift.  It was very creative and so well done,” said Michael Bish

Grumpy has a history of going above and beyond the call – where the Bish family is concerned. Four years ago, several of us from Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison and Rancor Clan were invited to visit nine-year-old Sam Bish, during his battle with a rare form of bone cancer (Osteosarcoma).  Sam loved Star Wars and the more we witnessed his bravery and that of his parents… it left a lasting mark on each one of us.  Later, when the Bish family invited us to participate in a CureWalk event in Columbus – Grumpy was on the front line, with Sam’s initials painted on his helmet. Then for the inaugural “Bish Bash” – Grumpy personalized one of his Commander Bly chest plates in memory of Sam and the foundation named after him.  This year, the entire Lindon family of clones got involved.

“Ever since meeting Sam, Mike, Cindy, and Courtney, my eyes have been opened to what happens with the kids and their families,” Grumpy reflects. “To lose a child to cancer really breaks me up.”

Michael adds, “It continues to show us what an impact Sam had on the lives he touched, whether he met them for just a moment or not at all.  He continues (even after four years after his passing) to touch so many people.  We are so blessed to have the support of such an amazing group of people and knowing that you all "have our back".  Thank you simply does not begin to show our gratitude to the 501st and Rebel Legion.  You all are family to us and hold a very dear spot in the hearts of the Bish Family.”

Steel City Con Smuggler’s Run

by: dgcook

I first visited the Steel City Con in Monroeville PA in the spring, as both Han Solo and TK-6290 -- and had a wonderful time.  I knew I would go back to the next one as soon as the first day drew to a close.  The convention is currently held 3 times a year.  It has the wonderful feeling of a good size convention that doesn’t feel too big.  And judging from the number of people having fun I think many others were drawn back too.  I recognized many people from the spring visit. 

The convention floor was full each day with enthusiastic people, many in costume and all in a good spirit.  A smile greeted you no matter where you turned.  Everyone seemed to be having fun and enjoying the convention.  The “Blast-A-Trooper” setup was very popular and many a trooper was covered in Nerf darts.  

There are two separate areas in a large convention hall: one mostly filled with vendors and the other with artists; and a great representation of both.  There are lots of great things to look at and too many things I want to take home.  The Ghost Base was stationed in the larger front hall and Garrison Carida with its “Blast-A-Trooper” station was located just as you entered the back section.  While trooping through the isles, I have made some wonderful new friends that I cannot wait to see again.  Both members of Ghost Base and Garrison Carida could not be more welcoming and fun to troop with.

The celebrity autograph section is also located in the back hall.  This year Billy Dee Williams and LeVar Burton (from Star Trek: The Next Generation/Reading Rainbow) were signing and at the December show Peter Mayhew and Michael Dorn will be there.  There were plenty of people to keep Billy Dee and LeVar busy, but not to the point where people had to worry about getting time with them.  I hope to be there again for the next show too and look forward to seeing everyone again.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bish Bash

It has been almost four years since a boy named Sam Bish passed away from his battle with cancer.  I had only met him once briefly, during a private movie night screening of “Revenge of the Sith” – where Sam was joined by a small army from Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison and Rancor Clan.  I remember attending Sam’s funeral, along with an honor guard of Star Wars characters.  In the years that followed, Michael and Cindy formed The Sam Bish Foundation in honor of their son’s memory and either hosted or organized events to help raise awareness for pediatric cancer, many times with the Star Wars groups along with them. So when it came time to rally in Columbus for the second annual “Bish Bash” the choice was simple…

“I have a promise to keep, to an old friend.”

“Bish Bash” is a carnival-style fundraiser event that supports The Sam Bish Foundation work raising awareness of pediatric cancer.   The family-friendly event is held at Westerville Christian Church and features everything from games and bounce houses, food trucks and other vendors, a presentation by the Columbus Zoo and local Fire Departments, along with not just Star Wars characters… but a collection of princesses, super-heroes from Heroes Alliance and even the TARDIS and Doctor Who Columbus.

The Bish family has a place in the hearts of many within Great Lakes Base, but probably none more so then “Grumpy” and his family of Kashyyk clonetroopers.  Last year, Grumpy decorated the chest plate of his Commander Bly armor with The Sam Bish Foundation… this year, the entire “squad” had each personalized their chest plates, and Grumpy even custom painted a clonetrooper helmet in Sam Bish colors – as a gift for Michael and Cindy.

For this year’s Bish Bash, we also wanted to do something extra special for the silent auction.  Several of us pooled resources to have a custom lightsaber built by Simpi Sabers.  This lightsaber was silver and blue, with a yellow blade – the colors of The Sam Bish Foundation.  And while lightsabers have always been known as an “elegant weapon”… the Bish saber is particularly beautiful when you understand its symbolism.  When it was all over, it was Sam’s grandfather who placed the winning bid on the lightsaber – crafted in memory of his grandson – and I kind of like the fact that this blade will stay in the family.

photo courtesy The Sam Bish Foundation

Once again, the Bish Bash was a huge success – with plenty of smiling children and good memories!  For more information on The Sam Bish Foundation, visit

Monday, July 21, 2014

Miracle League of Michigan

by: Vebb Baraka

Members of Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison descended on Miracle Field at the Southfield Civic Center for the Miracle League of Michigan's “Star Wars” day.  The Miracle League of Michigan is a charitable organization that provides children with disabilities an opportunity to play baseball as a team member in an organized league.  Miracle Field in Southfield was constructed in 2004 and was the first adaptive baseball field constructed in Michigan specifically for children with any physical or cognitive disability.

Even though the clouds overhead threatened rain, we weren't going to let the chance of rain keep us from meeting these awesome athletes and their families.  In between the two games of the day we were welcomed on to the field by a medley of Star Wars music where we were able to have a "meet and greet" and photo opportunities with the players and their families.  As it started to rain we moved the party in to the dugout.  Luckily, the players didn't seem to mind sharing their dugout with us visitors from a galaxy far, far away. 

A great time was had by all, and the rain was not able to dampen the spirits of the troopers or the smiles of the athletes and their families.  Watching the athletes of the Miracle League really brings new meaning to the phrase "for the love of the game."  I am pretty confident that I speak for every trooper who was there when I say that if the Miracle League has another Star Wars event, we'll be there.

To learn more about Miracle League of Michigan, visit

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sci-Fi Spectacular at Blossom

The Cleveland Orchestra summer concert series at Blossom Music Center is something of a tradition in northeast Ohio.  Therefore, when the orchestra invites Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison and Rancor Clan to be part of its “Sci-Fi Spectacular” concert – it is an opportunity NOT to be missed! 

The giant amphitheater is settled right in the middle of the 800 acres of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park; which giving the entire venue a very “Endor” vibe.  Which means a few early morning rainstorms passing over the area made for a beautiful (if not humid) afternoon.  This was my fourth tour of trooping for a concert at Blossom and still one of my favorite local venues.

Keeping with the “Endor” theme, would you believe the entrance to our dressing room is via a small “bunker” elevator, on the far side of the amphitheater?  Once our “small Rebel force,” as well as a few troopers and lone Mando Merc had a chance to suit up and make our way back up the hill towards the main entrance -- affectionately referred to as “the hill of death” – we spread out along the path, as guests began to camp out the best spot on the lawn for the concert.  As you can imagine, people would drop their folding chairs, coolers and blankets at the sight of us – wanting to get a picture with us; EXCEPT the guy who came with a fresh box of pizza… even a “jedi mind trick” wasn’t enough to get that guy to share.  When it came time for the concert to begin, some of us changed back to street clothes and other stayed in costume as our contact lead us to a section of open seats for us to enjoy the concert.

The Cleveland Orchestra kicked off the performance with (what else) the main theme from “Star Wars.”  After a medley of songs from popular sci-fi TV shows over the years, and the main theme from “Superman: the movie” (one of my personal favorites), it was time for the “Star Trek” portion of the evening; and to welcome the evening’s special guest.  George Takei was the guest narrator for the evening.  Mr. Takei told the story of how the original crew of the USS Enterprise was purposefully designed as a metaphor for the various cultures of Earth – coming together to create a better future.

 During intermission, you could see kids playing on the amphitheater lawn with toy lightsabers – which as a Star Wars fan, always brings a smile.  Since Fuzzball was our resident Jedi Knight for the evening, I challenged him (there MAY have been some “chicken clucking” involved on my part) to go over there and play along with any kid looking to test their skill against an fully trained Jedi – the same way I did, many years ago.  I’ll give my former “padawan” credit, he stood his ground expertly against a pair of rambunctious “younglings” – one wielding a double-bladed lightsaber – as well as simply interacted with a group of kids barely old enough to lift the lightsabers they were carrying.  As Fuzzball’s former Star Wars costuming mentor, watching this made me very proud!

Overall, it was another great concert at Blossom Music Center as our crew packed up to head for home from the “forest moon” of Cuyahoga Falls. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bowling for a good cause!

by: Vebb Baraka

On Friday July 11th, members of Great Lakes Base, Great Lakes Garrison, and the Midwest R2 builders Club joined together to help raise funds at the bowling fundraiser for a special boy named "Matt" at Indian Lanes in Wyandotte, MI.  Matt Dugas is a very special young man that GLG and GLB met during one of their visits to Mott Children's Hospital.  It was great to see all the people come out to support Matt and his family.  A group consisting of R2, a few troopers and myself posed for pictures with guests for donations, before roaming the event and interacting with guests.
photo courtesy Michael May
As usual, R2 was up to his usual mischief playing arcade games and harassing bowlers.  One of the highlights of the night was when TK-62946 (Micheal May) presented a special challenge coin to Matt in honor of his strength and perseverance.  We all wish Matt and his family the best as they continue his battle.

A great time was had by all.  The smiles on the guest’s faces, and especially on the faces of Matt and his family, were a great reminder of why we do what we do.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Always on the move!"

by: KrisAntilles

Recently, Great Lakes Base has been busy in western Michigan.  They joined with members of the Great Lakes Garrison for a baseball game, hospital visit, and parade – all in the same week!

photo courtesy:
West Michigan
The West Michigan Whitecaps minor league baseball team celebrated their 9th annual “Star Wars Night” at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Michigan.  Despite a fire this past winter that burned down a large portion of the stadium, the Whitecaps were able to rebuild in time to start their season in April and the June 28 th Star Wars Night saw record attendance and souvenir sales for this season.  Despite the rain, heat, and humidity, 35 members in a variety of costumes, from Vader to Chewbacca to Jedi to Stormtroopers, along with R2-D2, spent the evening entertaining fans with photo opportunities, on-field events, first pitch ceremony, providing atmosphere for an interview of the Whitecaps’ marketing director for WZZM 13 news, and helping entertain the crowd after the game until the evening fireworks show.

There was a “green screen” photo booth, allowing fans to get their picture taken with their favorite Star Wars characters and have them printed on backgrounds from the Star Wars movies.  Donations collected from the photo booth went to the Whitecaps Community Foundation, which is a non-profit arm of the West Michigan Whitecaps that actively supports West Michigan community organizations and programs that improve the lives of families and children.

A great time was had by all, and we’re looking forward to next year’s 10th anniversary of Star Wars night with the West Michigan Whitecaps!

The following Wednesday after the Whitecaps game, members of both the Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison spent the evening visiting children at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan for this bi-monthly event.  Darth Vader and Chewbacca, along with a Jedi and Sandtrooper visited children’s rooms, took pictures and selfies with patients and their families, autographed a book, and showed patients how a lightsaber works.  Darth Vader and Chewbacca even played a game of virtual volleyball with children in the hospital lobby.  This event marked the first time Chewbacca has visited the children’s hospital, as the newest member of the Great Lakes Base was able to make it out for the event.  We’re looking forward to the next Helen DeVos visit in September.

It was back to the Grand Rapids area again on Friday to celebrate Independence Day by walking in the Grandville 4th of July parade with the Grand Rapids Comic Con float.  While Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi were crowd favorites, a variety of characters came out for the parade, including Barriss Offee, Jedi, Stormtrooper, Jawa, Biker Scout, Tusken Raider, and Sandtrooper.  The Grand Rapids Comic Con takes place November 21-23, and many members from the Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison will be in attendance, along with the R2 Builders Club and Mandalorian Mercs.